University doctor offers overseas travel consults to campus community

Dr. Stephen Zell helps patients minimize the health risks associated with overseas travel

7/13/2011 - By: Anne McMillin
Dr. Steven Zell A pre-travel visit with travel medicine specialist Dr. Steven Zell helps patients minimize the health risks associated with overseas trips for work or play.

The prospect of travel abroad can be exciting yet daunting. In addition to deciding one's itinerary, deciding where to stay, what to see and then booking your mode of transportation there is something else to consider: how does your destination potentially affect your health?

Many vacationers will spend thousands of dollars on a trip only to suffer from a travel-related illness that limits their experience and enjoyment.

Traveling to many parts of the world, whether for a professional conference, a study abroad opportunity or an exotic dream vacation, means taking extra precautions to ensure your health during your stay outside the United States.

University of Nevada, Reno faculty and students facing a trip overseas, especially to underdeveloped countries, now have a University-affiliated medical resource available to them. Dr. Steven Zell, an internist at the University Health System, School of Medicine's clinical practice, who is certified by the International Society of Travel Medicine, offers pre and post-travel travel trip consultations. He provides an in-depth analysis of one's planned itinerary, associated potential health risks and can make recommendations regarding vaccinations and prescribe medicines for protection against infections such as malaria and traveler's diarrhea.

Zell, a board certified internist with expertise in travel medicine, is currently seeing patients with a desire or need to travel overseas at the internal medicine clinic, 1500 E. Second Street, Suite 302 in Reno. Thanks to his efforts, this clinic is now a Centers for Disease Control-certified center for administering Yellow Fever vaccine.

"The only required vaccine for which one needs proof of administration prior to entering certain countries is that of yellow fever. This vaccine must be received from an official center certified by the Centers for Disease Control, such as the internal medicine clinic at University Health System," he said.

Patients will receive a yellow stamped card known as the International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis. Countries requiring proof of yellow fever vaccine can be found at the CDC Travel website.

Beyond just administering the yellow fever vaccine, Zell consults with patients to discuss their specific travel plans and offers recommended precautions.

"When traveling abroad to an underdeveloped nation, medical needs can be organized into two definitive areas: vaccine preventable and non-vaccine preventable diseases. Examples of the latter include malaria for which no vaccine exists but for which a prescription medicine can be taken on a preventive basis to protect one from acquiring this infection," said Zell.

Vaccines given for international travel are further subdivided into those required for country entry as defined by International Health Regulations set forth by the World Health Organization, such as Yellow Fever, and those that are recommended based upon one's travel plans.

Recommended vaccines are those that may be appropriate based upon one's travel itinerary and past vaccination history, but do not require proof of administration for entry to a country. Examples include Hepatitis A and B vaccine, Typhoid vaccine, influenza vaccine plus tetanus and polio boosters given prior to travel.

In addition to any required or recommended vaccines, Zell's pre-travel consultation service includes offering advice on avoiding common travel medical conditions such as diarrhea.

"Traveler's diarrheal illness is caused by a host of bacteria and affects roughly up to 60 percent of travelers to foreign countries, generally within the first week of travel," said Zell.

While there is no vaccine to prevent such illness it can be managed using select antibiotics and oral rehydration packets dissolved in water to prevent dehydration.

"Older individuals may often be on acid-reducing agents that place them at risk of acquiring traveler's diarrhea and suffer worse consequences due to other medicines taken for high blood pressure, especially diuretics," Zell added.

Such individuals require counseling regarding the circumstances under which they should withhold their hypertensive medications, the correct use of oral rehydration salts to maintain blood volume and be given a prescription of an antibiotic effective in limiting traveler's diarrhea.

Zell belongs to the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) which allows him access to a network of more than 1,400 travel experts and colleagues worldwide. Through the society's network, Zell can help arrange medical care for travelers abroad or get current medical updates on global health risks in specific destinations.

Appointments for pre-travel medical visits with Dr. Zell may be scheduled by calling (775) 784-7500.


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